Anything goes – also, and especially between the sheets. Many sensual experiences benefit from massage oils, lubricants, and other liquids, but often, these little helpers don’t just increase the fun, they also take their toll on the sheets. However, now there is a convenient solution to that little problem: Sheets of San Francisco. What is that, you wonder? We let Mark Boulton explain.
How did you come up with the idea of selling fluid-proof sheets?
Mark Boulton: The idea was initially quite random, one of my colleagues heard something about them on a podcast and the idea grew from there. Initially, we had a completely different material in mind but we realised early on that if the product was to really work, we needed a very sophisticated material and set to work to find the fabrics that we use today.
Where does the name of your brand come from? What effect do you want to achieve with the name?
The company started in San Francisco and we came up with the name at a brainstorming session, which as I remember involved a few bottles of Californian Chardonnay! We manufacture in downtown San Francisco and the name reflects our roots there as well as telling you immediately what the product is. It is also a positive name and stands out from a sea of often quite unmemorable brands. Customers over a certain age will also get the reference to the well-known TV series of a similar name.
What kinds of materials are used in your products?
We use sophisticated engineered fabrics in all our products. First and foremost, they have to be fluid proof and be easy to wash and care for. We started with this in mind and identified fabrics which are also breathable, for additional comfort in use and lightweight, so very easy to take away with you and to store. It was also important to us that the top surface of the sheets was seam free, as seams are a potential point of failure and detract from the look and comfort of the sheets, we believe our product is unique in this respect. Our sheets are also extremely tough and durable so that users can put them through their paces without worrying too much about damaging them. We even have clients who claim to wear stilettos in bed without harming the sheets. Last but not least our fabrics feel great against the skin whatever you are using on them and are popular across the board with both men and women.
You said it took you a long time to develop the sheets. What were the difficulties in manufacturing sheets that live up to your standards?
It did take us a while to develop the sheets but this was more from the difficulties in sourcing fabrics that met our rigorous specification, than from difficulties in the actual manufacture. Finding suppliers who could produce both the width and quality we wanted was a challenge.
Your products are manufactured in the UK. Why is that important to you?
We manufacture in the US for the North American market and in the UK for the European market. Local manufacture is important to us for a number of reasons, not least because it demonstrates our support for the communities we operate in and our faith in local businesses. Manufacturing on shore also means we can be responsive in lead-times and in developing new products, so can adapt and change quite easily. It also means we are able to offer a bespoke service, where we can accommodate extra deep or oversized mattresses, so our retailers never need to turn away business. We do not know of another company who offers this service. Only this week we had a customer who wanted a matching duvet, which is not a product we currently offer, but we were able to accommodate his request and his duvet is currently in manufacture.
Apart from the practical applicability, you put a lot of focus on the design. Were there any challenges in the design process for your products because they are sheets?
We use two distinct materials in our range of products. Our Plus range is a plain black fabric that is sophisticated in the design of the fabric rather than the product itself. There is a lot of emphasis on the detail of the product and we continue to refine it and develop the design.
Our printed range is a high design product where we are able to produce near photographic quality images on the sheets. There will be more focus on this product going forward with new designs being introduced. We are also able to offer custom designs in this range so we can produce branded designs for customers, or reproduce most kinds of imagery on very short runs. The scope here is endless and only constrained by imagination.
Which target group do you aim for with Sheets of San Francisco?
Whist quite specialist in their design and performance, our sheets appeal to a broad range of users and are popular with both men and women. They are great for people who want to have a sensual massage session without worrying about oils staining the sheets and appeal for different reasons across the spectrum to all sorts of bedroom scenes, but probably more towards the light fetish market and swinging scene as they are great for things such as wax play. The gay leather market has been very successful for us in the US and we see this as being equally successful for us in Europe
What can you tell us about your product range?
We currently offer two main products; our Plus Range and our Unique Printed Range.
Our Plus range offers a selection of fitted sheets and pillowcases and flat throws in all standard UK and European sizes. Currently this range is available only in Black but in the coming months we intend to offer white as an alternative.
Our printed product is a range of printed flat throws. We currently offer one design but will expand this range in response to customer requests.
Which distribution channels do you use for marketing your products?
We currently market direct to retailers. We will be increasing our profile at shows this year. We are returning to Sexhibition in Manchester in August which was a good show for us last year with exposure to both the retail and trade markets. We have a stand at ETO in June and hoping to have a presence at eroFame at the end of the year to increase our profile to the trade.
Do you plan on expanding your distribution network? What strategy do you follow? Are you looking for distributors and wholesalers, or do you prefer working directly with retailers?
Ideally we would like to work direct with retailers as we like the direct relationship with them and the direct feedback. We are however open to other sales channels and are happy to talk with potential distributors
Your sheets are very unique products. How should resellers present or market them? Do you plan on supporting retailers with POS material and other stuff?
The sheets are unique and people really need to feel for themselves the quality of our fabrics. It is for this reason we have introduced our boxed samples, which we send out to potential customers. These are also available to retailers to send out. We provide sample fabric for display in store and also point of sales items, which can be geared to either the gay or straight markets,
What are the plans for the future of Sheets of San Francisco?
For the future we will continue to refine our plus range of sheets and throws. We will develop the printed range offering more sizes and introducing new designs on a regular basis and we expect to broaden the product offering with different but related items, all the time building on our high quality reputation. We will continually look to expand the retailer base.